The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday amended charges against the Chief Medical Director of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Prof.Thomas Agan, and four other defendants standing trial in an N85 million procurement scam.
The four other defendants are two staff of the Teaching Hospital: Ofor Jonan Ofor, Head, Works and Engineering, and Francis I. Utu, Chief Administrative Officer and Head, Legal Services. The other two are: Okocha Anthony and Emmanuel Etta Nkim, who are both promoters and owners of Anchor Industrial and Construction Services Nigeria Ltd and Basemark Energy Nigeria Ltd., respectively: the two companies allegedly used to perpetrate the fraud. They are all standing trial before Justice I. E. Ekwo of the Federal High Court sitting in Calabar, Cross Rivers State.
In the amended charges, the original five counts were expanded to include two new defendants: Prof. Archibong E. Achibong, Director of Administration of the Teaching Hospital and Effiong Okon Udobong, Head of Procurement of the Teaching Hospital. The two new defendants now serve as 2nd and 3rd defendants respectively. The amended charges were stiffly contested by the defence counsel, Mba Ukwueni, SAN, who argued that the prosecution had no legal right to amend the charges without the leave of the court. He cited section 216 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 to bolster his submission. However, the prosecution counsel, Kayode Oni floored him by citing the Uguru vs State 2002 NWLR part 771p 90 act 95, where the Supreme Court empowered the court to alter, amend or add to any charge in any criminal case before it, at any time, before judgment is given.
Justice Ekwo upheld the submission of the prosecution counsel and ordered the two new defendants to take their pleas. The defendants pleaded not guilty to the five count charges.
Count one read: “that you, Prof. Thomas U. Agan as Chief Medical Director University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Prof.Archibong E. Archibong being the Director of Administration , Effiong Okon Udo Obong, Head of Procurement, Offor Jonah Offor as Head of Works and Engineering, University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Okocha Anthony, being the Managing Director of Anchor Industrial and Construction Services Nig. Ltd, Emmanuel Etta Nkim, being the Managing Director of Basemark Construction Nig. Ltd; sometime in the month of October, 2015 in Calabar, Cross River State within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did conspire amongst yourselves to bid-rig for the purchase of one Advanced Life Support Ambulance and one Toyota Coaster Bus 30 Seaters to Messrs Basemark Construction Services Nig. Ltd contrary to section 58(4) of the Public Procurement Act (PPA) 2007 and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 58(5) of the same Act.
The two defendants were admitted to bail in the same conditions as other defendants and remanded in prison custody until the bail conditions are met. All other four defendants, together with the two companies, were allowed to continue on the initial bail granted them when they were first arraigned on April 3, 2017.
Justice Ekwo adjourned the matter to June 15, 2017 for continuation of trial.